23rd November 2016 | IGT Challenge Tour
Quadruple IGT Tour delight for Naicker
By Lali Stander
JOHANNESBURG, 23 November 2016 – Damian Naicker banked his fourth IGT Tour title this season when he captured the Race to Q-School #8 at Killarney Golf Club on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old Modderfontein pro wiped out a two shot deficit early in the final round and was in imperious form as he cruised to a six-under-par 64 to triumph by two shots over Terence Boardman on seven-under-par 203.
“I set a target of four under, so I’m seriously pleased with this final round,” said Naicker. “I played nicely in the first round to myself in contention with a 67, but I struggled off the tee in the second round and I was disappointed to shoot 72.
“I was only two shots behind the leaders. I knew I could give myself a chance if I made a good start and if I picked up some birdies on the back nine. You have to hit fairways and greens at this course and today I hit the targets and the putter was hot. Once I caught up through the turn, I knew I could take it home.”
Naicker reeled in birdies at one, three and five to catch up to overnight leaders Bryce McCabe and Matthew Spacey and offset a bogey at seven with a birdie at nine to tie Boardman for the lead at the turn.
“Bryce fell away a little, but Terence eagled the fifth and Matt was level at the turn and just one behind, so the race was on,” said Naicker.
“I birdied 11, 12 and 15 to get to seven under and that took the pressure off, because no-one was really making a run at me. Terence had eight pars and a birdie at 18 for a 66. Matt birdied 11 and 12, but he bogeyed 14, birdied 15 and dropped another shot at 17.
“I had a comfortable three shot lead with three holes to play, but I think the adrenaline got the better of me at 16. I had 162 metres to the pin and I flew the green with a nine-iron. I made a great birdie at 17 to cancel the bogey at 16, and I didn’t take any chances on the last hole. I just drove it down the middle, got the approach on the green and two-putted for par and the win.”
Naicker turned pro in 2012 and spent three years campaigning on mini-Tours in Europe before he returned home early this year. The GFG Academy player banked his first IGT Tour title at the Zwartkop Match Play Championship in May and notched his second at the second event of the 18-tournament Race to Q-School Series at Waterkloof Golf Club in October.
He established himself at the top of the Race to Q-School Money List with a win, a runner-up finish and three top 10s and came into the eighth event on the back of his third victory in the Race to Q-School #7 at Wingate Park Country Club last week.
His fourth victory took Naicker’s tally to just over 44,000 points and he is well clear of two-time winner Dean O’Riley in second on 24,256.
“The top five players on the Money List at the end of the Race to Q-School Series will automatically qualify for the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School, so it’s a huge deal to have a big lead with 10 events to play.
“We have three events left before the Tour breaks for the festive season. I’ve worked incredibly hard on my game this year, so I’m looking forward to the holidays, but I will definitely be targeting at least one more victory to increase my cushion.”
Spacey closed with a 69 to take third on his own at four under, while Coert Groenewald and England’s Gregg Blainey shared fourth at two under after respective rounds of 68 and 69.